I’m going to talk to you about some stuff that’s in this book of mine
that I hope will resonate with other things you’ve already heard,
and I’ll try to make some connections myself,
in case you missed them.
But I want to start with what I call the “official dogma.”
The official dogma of what?
The official dogma of all Western industrial societies.
And the official dogma runs like this:
if we are interested in maximizing the welfare of our citizens,
the way to do that is to maximize individual freedom.
The reason for this
is both that freedom is in and of itself good,
valuable, worthwhile, essential to being human.
And because if people have freedom,
then each of us can act on our own
to do the things that will maximize our welfare,
and no one has to decide on our behalf.
The way to maximize freedom
is to maximize choice.
The more choice people have, the more freedom they have,
and the more freedom they have,the more welfare they have.
This, I think, is so
deeply embedded in the water supply
that it wouldn’t occur to anyone to question it.
And it’s also deeply embedded in our lives.
I’ll give you some examples
of what modern progress has made possible for us.
This is my supermarket.
Not such a big one.
I want to say just a word about salad dressing.
175 salad dressings in my supermarket, if you don’t count
the 10 extra-virgin olive oils and 12 balsamic vinegars
you could buy to make a very large number of your own salad dressings,
in the off-chance that none of the 175 the store has on offer suit you.
So this is what the supermarket is like.
And then you go to the consumer electronics store
to set up a stereo system —
speakers, CD player, tape player, tuner, amplifier —
音响 CD机 磁带机 调谐器 扩音器
and in this one single consumer electronics store,
–there are that many stereo systems.
We can construct six-and-a-half-million different stereo systems
out of the components that are on offer in one store.
You’ve got to admit that’s a lot of choice.
In other domains — the world of communications.
There was a time, when I was a boy,
when you could get any kind of telephone service you wanted,
as long as it came from Ma Bell.
You rented your phone. You didn’t buy it.
One consequence of that, by the way, is that the phone never broke.
And those days are gone.
We now have an almost unlimited variety of phones,
especially in the world of cell phones.
These are cell phones of the future.
My favorite is the middle one —
the MP3 player, nose hair trimmer,
and crème brûlée torch. And if…
if by some chance you haven’t seen that in your store yet,you can
rest assured that one day soon, you will.
And what this does is it leads people to walk into their stores asking this question.
And do you know what the answer to this question now is?
The answer is “no.”
It is not possible to buy a cell phone that doesn’t do too much.
So, in other aspects of life that are much more significant
than buying things,
the same explosion of choice is true.
It is no longer the case in the United States
that you go to the doctor, and the doctor tells you what to do.
Instead, you go to the doctor,and the doctor tells you,
如今相反 你去看病 医生会说
“Well, we could do A, or we could do B.
A has these benefits, and these risks.
B has these benefits, and these risks.
What do you want to do?”
And you say, “Doc, what should I do?”
And the doc says, “A has these benefits and risks,
and B has these benefits and risks.What do you want to do?”
And you say,
“If you were me, Doc, what would you do?”
“大夫 如果你是我 你会选哪个？”
And the doc says, “But I’m not you.”
And the result is — we call it “patient autonomy”,
which makes it sound like a good thing,
but it really is a shifting of the burden and the responsibility for decision-making
from somebody who knows something –namely, the doctor —
to somebody who knows nothing and is almost certainly
sick and thus not in the best shape to be making decisions —
namely, the patient.
There’s enormous marketing of prescription drugs
to people like you and me,
which, if you think about it, makes no sense at all,
since we can’t buy them.
Why do they market to us if we can’t buy them?
The answer is that they expect us to call our doctors the next morning
and ask for our prescriptions to be changed.
Something as dramatic as our identity
is now become a matter of choice,
as this slide is meant to indicate.
We get to…we don’t inherit an identity; we get to invent it.
And we get to reinvent ourselves as often as we like.
And that means that every day, when you wake up in the morning, you have to decide
这意味着 每天清晨醒来 你都要决定
what kind of person you want to be.
With respect to marriage and family:
there was a time when the default assumption
that almost everyone had is that you got married as soon as you could,
and then you started having kids as soon as you could.
The only real choice was who,
not when, and not what you did after.
Nowadays, everything is very much up for grabs.
I teach wonderfully intelligent students,
and I assign 20 percent less work than I used to.
And it’s not because they’re less smart,
and it’s not because they’re less diligent.
It’s because they are preoccupied,
asking themselves, “Should I get married or not?
Should I get married now?
Should I get married later?
Should I have kids first, or a career first?”
All of these are consuming questions.
And they’re gonna answer these questions,
whether or not, it means not doing all the work I assign
and not getting a good grade in my courses.
And indeed they should.These are important questions to answer.
we are blessed, as Carl was pointing out,
with the technology that enables us to work
every minute of every day
from any place on the planet —
except the Randolph Hotel.
[Laughter and Applause]
There is one corner,
by the way, that I’m not going to tell anybody about,
where the WiFi actually works.
I’m not telling you about it because I want to use it.
So what this means,
this incredible freedom of choice we have with respect to work,
is that we have to make a decision, again and again and again,
about whether we should or shouldn’t be working.
We can go to watch our kid play soccer,
and we have our cell phone on one hip,
and our Blackberry on our other hip,
and our laptop, presumably, on our laps.
And even if they’re all shut off,
every minute that we’re watching our kid mutilate the soccer game,
we are also asking ourselves,”Should I answer this
cell phone call? Should I respond to this email? Should I draft this letter? “
And even if the answer to the question is “no,”
it’s certainly going to make the experience of your kid’s
soccer game very different than it would’ve been.
So everywhere we look,
big things and small things,
material things and lifestyle things,
life is a matter of choice.
And the world we used to live in looked like this.
That is to say, there were some choices,
but not everything was a matter of choice.
And the world we now live in looks like this.
And the question is,
is this good news, or bad news?
And the answer is, “yes.”
We all know what’s good about it,
so I’m going to talk about what’s bad about it.
All of this choice has two effects,
two negative effects on people.
One effect, paradoxically,
is that it produces paralysis, rather than liberation.
With so many options to choose from,
people find it very difficult to choose at all.
I’ll give you one very dramatic example of this:
a study that was done
of investments in voluntary retirement plans.
A colleague of mine got access to
investment records from Vanguard,the gigantic mutual-fund company
of about a million employees and about 2,000 different workplaces.
And what she found is that for every 10 mutual funds the employer offered,
rate of participation went down two percent.
You offer 50 funds — 10 percent fewer employees participate
than if you only offer 5.
Because with 50 funds to choose from, it’s so damn hard to decide which
fund to choose, that you’ll just put it off until tomorrow.
And then tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
and of course tomorrow never comes.
Understand that not only does this mean
that people are going to have to eat dog food when they retire
because they don’t have enough money put away,
it also means that making the decision is so hard
that they pass up significant matching money from the employer.
By not participating, they are passing up as much as 5,000 dollars a year
from the employer, who would happily match their contribution.
is a consequence of having too many choices.
And I think it makes the world look like this.
You really want to get the decision right
if it’s for all eternity, right?
You don’t want to pick the wrong mutual fund, or the wrong salad dressing.
So that’s one effect. The second effect
is that even if we manage
to overcome the paralysis and make a choice,
we end up
less satisfied with the result of the choice
than we would be if we had fewer options to choose from.
And there are several reasons for this.
One of them is
that with a lot of different salad dressings to choose from,
if you buy one, and it’s not perfect — and you know what salad dressing is
— it’s easy to imagine that you could have made a different choice that would have been better.
And what happens is this imagined alternative
induces you to regret the decision you made,
and this regret subtracts from the satisfaction you get out of the decision you made,
even if it was a good decision.
The more options there are, the easier it is to regret
anything at all that is disappointing about the option that you chose.
Second, what economists call “opportunity costs.”
Dan Gilbert made a big point this morning of talking about how…
how much…the way in which we value things depends on what we compare them to.
Well, when there are lots of alternatives to consider,
it is easy to imagine
the attractive features of alternatives that you reject
that make you less satisfied with the alternative that you’ve chosen.
Here’s an example.
For those of you who aren’t New Yorkers, I apologize.
But here’s what you’re supposed to be thinking.
Here’s this couple on the Hamptons.
Very expensive real estate. Gorgeous beach. Beautiful day.
这儿有昂贵的地产 漂亮的沙滩 美好的天气
They have it all to themselves.What could be better?
“Well, damn it,”this guy is thinking,”It’s August.
Everybody in my Manhattan neighborhood is away.
I could be parking right in front of my building.”
And he spends two weeks
nagged by the idea that he is missing the opportunity,
day after day, to have a great parking space.
subtract from the satisfaction we get out of what we choose,
even when what we choose is terrific.
And the more options there are to consider,
the more attractive features of these options are going to be
reflected by us as opportunity costs.
Here’s another example.
Now this cartoon makes a lot of points.
It makes points about living in the moment
as well and probably about doing things slowly.
But one point it makes is that whenever you’re choosing one thing,
you’re choosing not to do other things
and those other things may have lots of attractive features
and it’s gonna make what you’re doing less attractive.
escalation of expectations.
This hit me when I went to replace my jeans.
I wear jeans almost all the time.
And there was a time when jeans came in one flavor,
and you bought them, and they fit like crap,
and they were incredibly uncomfortable,
and if you wore them long enough and washed them enough times,
they started to feel OK.
So I went to replace my jeans after years and years of wearing these old ones,
and I said, “I want a pair of jeans. Here’s my size.”
And the shopkeeper said,”Do you want slim fit, easy fit, relaxed fit?
You want button fly or zipper fly?
You want stonewashed or acid-washed?
Do you want them distressed?
You want boot cut, you want tapered, blah blah.”
On and on he went.My jaw dropped.
And after I recovered, I said,
“I want the kind that used to be the only kind.”
He had no idea what that was,
so I spent an hour trying on all these damn jeans,
and I walked out of the store–truth!–
with the best-fitting jeans I had ever had.
I did better.
All this choice made it possible for me to do better.
But –I felt worse.
I wrote a whole book to try to explain this to myself.
The reason is…
The reason I felt worse is
that with all of these options available,
my expectations about how good a pair of jeans should be went up.
I had very low, I had no particular expectations
when they only came in one flavor.
When they came in 100 flavors, damn it, one of them should’ve been perfect.
And what I got was good, but it wasn’t perfect.
And so I compared what I got to what I expected,
and what I got was disappointing in comparison to what I expected.
Adding options to people’s lives
can’t help but increase the expectations people have
about how good those options will be.
And what that’s going to produce
is less satisfaction with results,
even when they’re good results.
Nobody in the world of marketing knows this.
Because if they did,
you wouldn’t all know what this was about.
The truth is more like this.
The reason that everything was better back when everything was worse
is that when everything was worse,
it was actually possible for people to have experiences
that were a pleasant surprise.
Nowadays, the world we live in — we affluent, industrialized citizens,
如今 我们是富裕的 享受现代化的公民
with perfection the expectation —
the best you can ever hope for
is that stuff is as good as you expect it to be.
You will never be pleasantly surprised because your expectations, my expectations,
have gone through the roof.
The secret to happiness — this is what you all came for
–the secret to happiness is
[Applause & Laughter]
I want to say —
just a little autobiographical moment —
that I actually am married to a wife,
and she’s really quite wonderful.
I couldn’t have done better. I didn’t settle.
But settling isn’t always such a bad thing.
Finally –One consequence of buying a bad-fitting pair of jeans
when there is only one kind to buy
is that when you are dissatisfied, and you ask why,who’s responsible,
the answer is clear: the world is responsible.What could you do?
答案很明显 这个世界有责任 你能怎样？
When there are hundreds of different styles of jeans available,
and you buy one that is disappointing,
and you ask why, who’s responsible?
It is equally clear that the answer to the question is “you.”
You could have done better.
With a hundred different kinds of jeans on display,
there is no excuse for failure.
And so when people make decisions,
and even though the results of the decisions are good,
they feel disappointed about them;
they blame themselves.
Clinical depression has exploded
in the industrial world in the last generation.
I believe a significant — not the only, but a significant —
contributor to this explosion of depression, and also suicide,
is that people have experiences that are disappointing because their standards are so high,
and then when they have to explain these experiences to themselves,
they think they’re at fault.
And so the net result is that we do better
in general, objectively,and we feel worse.
So let me remind you.
This is the official dogma,
the one that we all take to be true,
and it’s all false. It is not true.
There’s no question
that some choice is better than none,
but it doesn’t follow from that
that more choice is better than some choice.
There’s some magical amount. I don’t know what it is.
I’m pretty confident that we have long since passed the point
where options improve our welfare.
Now, as a policy matter — I’m almost done —
as a policy matter, the thing to think about is this:
what enables all of this choice
in industrial societies is material affluence.
There are lots of places in the world, and we have heard about several of them,
where their problem is not that they have too much choice.
Their problem is that they have too little.
So the stuff I’m talking about
is the peculiar problem of modern, affluent, Western societies.
And what is so frustrating and infuriating is this:
Steve Levitt talked to you yesterday about how
these expensive and difficult-to-install
child seats don’t help.
It’s a waste of money.
What I’m telling you is that these expensive,
complicated choices –it’s not simply that they don’t help.
They actually hurt.They actually make us worse off.
If some of what enables people in our
societies to make all of the choices we make
were shifted to societies in which people have too few options,
not only would those people’s lives be improved,
but ours would be improved also,
which is what economists call a “Pareto-improving move.”
Income redistribution will make everyone better off —
not just poor people —
because of how all this excess choice plagues us.
So to conclude.
You’re supposed to read this cartoon,
and, being a sophisticated person, say,”Ah! What does this fish know?
作为复杂的社会人 你会说“哼 这鱼知道什么”
You know, nothing is possible in this fishbowl.
“Impoverished imagination, a myopic view of the world” –and that’s the way I read it at first.
The more I thought about it, however, the more I came to the view
然而 思考得越多 我就越是认为
that this fish knows something.
Because the truth of the matter is
that if you shatter the fishbowl
so that everything is possible,
you don’t have freedom.You have paralysis.
If you shatter this fishbowl so that everything is possible,
you decrease satisfaction.
You increase paralysis, and you decrease satisfaction.
Everybody needs a fishbowl.
This one is almost certainly too limited —
perhaps even for the fish, certainly for us.
But the absence of some metaphorical fishbowl
is a recipe for misery,
and, I suspect, disaster.
Thank you very much.